When someone decides to end their marriage, divorce might seem like the most obvious answer. However, there is more than one way to split up in California. There are three ways to end a marriage or domestic partnership - divorce, legal separation, or annulment. Our Pasadena family law firm explains the differences below and how to decide which option is best for you.
What’s the Difference Between Divorce, Legal Separation, and Annulment?
In California, the options for ending a marriage include divorce, legal separation, or annulment.
Divorce: Ends the marriage or domestic partnership. People can get remarried once a divorce is finalized.
Legal Separation: Does not end the marriage or domestic partnership, and people cannot marry someone else. Legal separation can change into a divorce if certain requirements are met.
Annulment: When the court legally invalidates the marriage or domestic partnership. Essentially, the marriage never happened because it was never “legal.”
Regardless of which method is chosen, spouses will still need to make decisions regarding typical divorce matters like child custody, property division, spousal support, and child support. Additionally, only one partner needs to agree to end the marriage. This means that the process will continue even if the other spouse or partner disagrees with the decision.
Which Option is Best?
While you may think you want to finalize the end of your marriage through a divorce, legal separation, or annulment might be a better choice for your situation.
Why Choose Legal Separation
If you cannot or do not want to get a divorce in California, you can ask for a legal separation from the court. Typically people choose this route for various reasons.
Some couples may choose to get a legal separation because:
- They don’t want to divorce, but they want to live apart and have court orders about finances, property, and custody matters.
- It conflicts with their religious or personal beliefs.
- They do not meet the California residency requirement for filing for divorce, and they cannot/do not want to wait to start the separation process.
- They don’t want to be together anymore but want to keep certain financial benefits like health insurance or filing joint income taxes.
Why Choose Annulment
Getting an annulment is rarer, but there are certain situations that can warrant one. Some couples who are married for a short length of time may try to annul their marriage, but that is not a sufficient reason for the judge in your case to annul your marriage.
A marriage can be declared void in California for the following reasons:
- One spouse was under the age of 18 at the time of the marriage.
- One spouse was forced or under fraud into getting married, or it occurred while they were physically or mentally incapacitated.
- Either party was previously legally married in which their former spouse was absent for five years and not known to be alive. (This is not bigamy, which is automatically illegal.)
One of these reasons must be able to be proven true in order for the judge to approve the annulment. Additionally, irreconcilable differences, a common reason for divorce or legal separation, cannot be the reason for annulling a marriage.
To decide which option is suitable for your circumstance, it is a good idea to have a conversation with your spouse and a Pasadena divorce lawyer. Speak with a family law attorney at Law Offices of Christopher L. Hoglin, P.C. for legal counsel before making your choice.
To discuss your options for ending your marriage in California, call us today at (626) 653-4075.